TELEVISION / Petty distractions of the royal variety

IT'S a wonder actors don't get the bends, they whizz so recklessly up and down the social ladder. Last Tuesday night, in Between the Lines (BBC 1), Michael Kitchen was playing something scraped off on the lowest rung - a journalist. Last night he was at the top playing King. Just King. The credits didn't add a name and nobody in To Play the King (BBC 1), a follow up to the enjoyable House of Cards, breached etiquette by mentioning it.

Nobody needed to, in fact, because every detail of Kitchen's performance bellowed Charles, from the regal hand diving for cover into the barathea blazer to that irritable muttered drone in the voice. Part of the charm of the series, though, is not naming names. 'Remember that frightfully nice man who talked a lot about 'the classless society'?' Ian Richardson asked in the opening moments. 'He had to go, of course, in the end.' We do remember, and the assumption that we know what is being talked about so elliptically is the key to the series' principal seduction. Even the dimmest viewer is made to feel wily and in the know, a fact pressed home by the flattery of the direction. Richardson's face is never larger in the screen than when it is looking directly at us, his principal confidantes in this game of knowing cynicism. 'We know, don't we?' he says. Well, no we don't, actually, but it's great fun pretending we do.

Francis Urqhart has made it to PM but isn't entirely happy. He suffers the odd pang of remorse for tipping Susannah Harker to her death and feels 'becalmed' by the achievement of his ambitions. Then along comes the new king, passionate about architecture and the environment, hostile to his government's right- wing policies and determined to speak of his convictions in public.

Even devotees may feel that this first episode was a little smugly assured about the appeal of silky villainy but there are some very promising elements being stirred into the pot for the coming weeks. Princess Dia . . . sorry, Charlotte, is being finagled into queering the pitch for her former husband, the King's devoted press secretary is about to burst messily out of the closet and someone has possession of the tape that proves Urqhart is a murderer. Conspiracy addicts disappointed by the growing sobriety of Kennedy assassination programmes will find much to feast on here.

It would be nice to see Michael Kitchen's King exposed to the regal humiliation of The Royal Variety Performance (ITV), a grimly unchanging compound of class condescension and showbiz humbug. Saturday's parade of musical medleys and Marbella tans (the most natural complexion by far belonged to Kermit the Frog) was only made bearable by the presence, in a stage-side box, of two people who enjoy the continuing affection of the nation at large. Yes, Waldorf and Statler, the unappeasable Muppet hecklers.

The thing about Waldorf and Statler is that they can answer back. 'I've got stage-fright' said one. 'Stage-fright?' asked the other. 'Yeah, I'm frightened of what's coming on next.' At this point you yearned to see the Queen's face, which surely gave a twitch of fellow feeling.

For some reason Frank Bough appeared on Have I Got News For You this weekend (BBC 2, Saturday). Smart money was on an early score for the feral regulars but in the event you had to wait 20 agonising minutes. 'It could be anybody,' complained Jo Brand when asked to identify a shapely pair of stockinged legs. 'I mean, it could even be you, Frank.' It was a bad moment but he could still have managed a clearance ('No, I prefer fish-nets', perhaps?) Instead he said, 'A small libel, but I'll let it pass.' It was the equivalent of Stuart Pearce's fatally underpowered back-pass, leaving the goal wide open for 'Galtieri' Hislop. 'I always understood libel had to be untrue,' he added with a smirk. Everybody looked a bit sheepish and rightly so - it was a cruel moment in a programme famous for them and only mitigated by Bough's unimaginable folly in thinking he might get away with it.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas